Tiny clues can lead to amazing discoveries

The writer is a freelance researcher and former elder and employee of the Worldwide Church of God. He lives with his wife, Robbie, in North Carolina. This article is adapted from Mr. Arvidson's new book, Key of David: Locating King David's Lost Tomb. For more information, write Association for Christian Development, P.O. Box 4748, Federal Way, Wash. 98063, U.S.A., or See also The Journal, June 30. David Sielaff assisted Mr. Arvidson in writing the book and this article.

By Gary Arvidson

KINGS MOUNTAIN, N.C.--You may have read in the June issue of The Journal about my dream of locating King David's tomb and all that its discovery would mean.

Could it be possible to find King David's lost tomb with only the most limited clues at our disposal?

This very quest has been foiled many times throughout history. Therefore, what specific set of circumstances could allow a newly formed research team a decisive advantage over other seekers?

Sometimes a clue is so tiny that it may be rejected as being no clue at all. But, as legal analysts recognize, no clue can be omitted before being put to the proper test.

Investigators who summarily reject clues because of apparent insignificance may find themselves summarily dismissed from dealing with clues ever again.

After all, even the Bible wonders about people who despise the "day of small things" (Zechariah 4:10).

Three little words

Now get this. One critical clue to finding King David's tomb is a mere three-word phrase: key of David. Although this phrase is small by any standard, it is powerful in its significance and reaches beyond its apparent insignificance.

Read the text below while keeping in mind that it is Jesus who is talking:

"And to the angel of the church of Philadelphia write: 'These things say he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens'" (Revelation 3:7).

Those are the words. This is the clue. Is this a literal key? Is it only symbolic? If so, what does it symbolize?

Answers will be more readily forthcoming once it is acknowledged that this phrase is based on an original statement in the Old Testament that includes three additional words: "the key of the house of David" (Isaiah 22:22).

That vital addition must also be addressed. A message can be inferred from the missing words.

Literal or symbolic key?

Experts recognize that the book of Revelation is highly symbolic. Some even suggest it is more of a mystical book.

You will probably find more opinions about Revelation than you will in just about any other Bible book.

So how could we possibly hope to find clues about David's tomb's whereabouts from looking into a book that appears to be, at best, composed of mystical biblical literature?

Much depends on the answer to this question. Therefore, what is the larger perspective about this text, the book of Revelation?

Controlled by Jesus

First, Revelation 3:7 shows that Jesus controls the "key of David." After all, He wrote the book (Revelation 1:1) and delivered the message. Therefore He asserts full sovereignty over the key.

In short, Jesus not only controls (1) the identity of the key (of David) but (2) is the holder of the key along with (3) being the one to determine its interpretive powers (open, shut and shut, open) that (4) can be utilized at the proper moment.

Furthermore, Jesus administers (5) the correct application of the key and (6) what can be accomplished by means of it at (7) the appropriate time.

What aspect of David's life or death is this key most concerned with?

Amazing interpretations

Examine some of the interesting ways the "key of David" has been interpreted for its potential hidden meaning.

Did you realize this tiny phrase has been deciphered in no fewer than 15 ways? That in itself shows we should be careful about arriving at any conclusion too quickly

Take a good look at the alleged possible meanings below. The perspective I'm presenting here will give good reasons for applying the text points to the inevitable result from the death and burial of King David--in his unique tomb, which remains "unto this day" (Acts 2:29).

The summary of interpretations begins with the Jewish perspective, because it offers the oldest view. Besides, it is the basis for what is expressed under New Testament conditions. The Jewish perspective is in Isaiah 22:22 and, of course, not Revelation 3:7. Here are the keys:

The keys

  • The key to David's royal palace: The first meaning is literal and logical. Specifically it is a prediction of God's promise to Eliakim for his succession to the office of governor of the king's palace: "the key of the house of David."
  • The key to David's kingdom: Based upon additional commentary, the key to the royal palace also implies that it is the key to the kingdom (country) of David. The holder of the key would be the vizier, or prime minister, not the king.
  • The key to Israel's sanctuary: Going one step further, scholars suggest we will find the additional notion of the "key to the sanctuary and dominion over the house of David" (Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [TDNT], Vol. VI, p. 748).
  • The key to the authority of the teachers of the law: "In Jewish tradition, the key of David refers to the authority of the teachers of the Law" (Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 4, p. 31). Jesus endorsed this OT position with his comments in Luke 11:52 and Matthew 23:13.
  • The key to an expanded meaning of messiahship: Another overall perspective about this text is the introduction of the expanded meaning of messiahship attributed to Jesus. (The evidence for this is supplied in the full text version from the ACD. See the editor's note preceding this article.)
  • The keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: Jesus gave keys to Simon Peter in Matthew 16:19. Scholars see a connection between Isaiah 22:22 and this special authority given to Peter as "a prime ministerial role" (Anchor Bible Dictionary, ibid.).
  • The key to the Lord's storehouse: This category falls under the Christian perspective and is based on documentation that utilizes the words "Lord's treasure" and "storehouse" (Dictionary of the Bible, Hastings, p. 549).
  • The key to God's eternal palace or messianic banquet hall: According to the TDNT, the key is to "God's eternal palace," and the focus is upon Jesus, of the Davidic line: ". . . It is the key to the door of the Messianic banqueting hall . . ." (TDNT, Vol. VIII, p. 487).
  • The keys of death and hades (with the bottomless pit): Jesus mentions His keys one other time in Revelation. These are "the keys of hades and death" (Revelation 1:18). Another key could be added: "the key to the bottomless pit" (Revelation 9:1; 20:1).
  • The key to the identity of the totality of David's people: This perspective applies to all of David's people, who would include even the separated elements called the "lost 10 tribes." The key is described as "knowing where David's people are today."
  • The key of the typology of David's body: David is the type upon which the second David (Jesus) is based. One clear example is Acts 2:27 (Psalm 16:8). The story of (1) the body and (2) the tomb is important in both cases--and coincides dramatically.
  • The key of the connection between David and the tabernacle: This is a study in itself. David's bringing of the ark to Jerusalem became the basis for what followed, such as the special housing unit (tabernacle of David) that David created (Amos 9:11; see also 2 Samuel 7).
  • The key of the connection between the burial of Moses and David: An amazing corollary exists between Moses and David. From multiple perspectives we can recognize powerful reasons for the "interconnectivity" and how it affects the burial site of each man.
  • The key to understanding the issue of David's tomb: This would include the relationship of the lost tomb and the body to the second David and second Moses and the focus on the lost body: "where the carcass is" (Matthew 24:28; see also Ezekiel 43:7). Surprises abound.
  • The key to King David's lost tomb: We read about the "tabernacle of David" (Isaiah 16:5; Amos 9:11; Acts 15:16). Five definitions are given. What is the meaning of "raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen"?

Remember, these 15 choices for interpreting this key of David are posed here as possibilities to consider when attempting to discern what is the primary, secondary or other compound meanings of this short phrase.

Open and shut

One final element deserves a brief comment. The condition of "open" and "shut" must be added to the perspective. Those words correlate with known conditions surrounding David's tomb over the past 2,000 years, because they take into account the situation that existed at (1) the time King David was buried in his tomb and (2) well after that when his tomb was under protection.

To safeguard the tomb throughout the ages, the tomb would have been miraculously "shut" until the time when God would permit (or direct) it to be opened.

Remember, David is dead and buried, just as Peter said (Acts 2:29). He is not ascended into the heavens (Acts 2:34). Yet here is a key that gives the holder certain powers.

Reader input

This concludes our abbreviated discussion on the various ways Revelation 3:7 and Isaiah 22:22 have been or can be interpreted.

We will consider any reader's input about suggested additions to this list. I am making no attempt to limit knowledge and possibilities here because the best choice can be made only from a perspective of full knowledge.

This means we should draw from a complete selection of all known possibilities.

In a future issue of The Journal I plan to write about the power of parables.

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